Author: Kirby, Andy. 2003 Title: Redefining social and environmental relations at the ecovillage at Ithaca: A case study Core research: This paper is an investigation of the EcoVillage in Ithaca, NY specifically focusing on the social vision and personal factors that brought its inhabitants together, their initial motivations in becoming involved and their impressions after the first five years of living in the EcoVillage. The paper explores the nature of the community that has been created, socially, spatially, and imaginatively. The goal is to discover the challenges, rewards, and disappointments of the EcoVillage lifestyle so far. Methods: Eighteen semi-structured interviews of households within a week at the EcoVIllage in August of 2000. Four points were followed as a guide to inquiry: Inquiry into resident’ motivations for moving to EVI Evaluation of ways in which residents’ prior expectations had or had not been met Assessment of te major challenges that had been faced in the first 5 years of the EVI’s existence Description of the experiential quality of life at the EVI Rhythms of daily life were observed by researcher Observations: Households ranged from single person houses to younger and older families as well as retired couples. A wide range of occupations were observed including gardening, clerical, social work, and software design. Survey/Measurement: initial motivations, challenges, expectations, positive and negatives of current environment Key Findings: For most residents, concern for creating community for social reasons outweighed purely environmental considerations as a motivating factor in the decision to move to EVI (by 10 to 3). For the remaining 5 the 2 were equally important, and for several others environmental issues were important, but to a lesser extent. (p. 5) Social and environmental activism were regular themes, in 14 of the 18 interviews, as EVI residents consistently reported involvement in educating themselves or others about such matters. Most often, the genesis of their interest in these topics was personal experiences. (p. 5) Realization of the ecovillage project offered a solution to two pressing problems for the residents of EVI; a perceived loss of community, and accelerating damage to the environment In all, 15 instances of negative evaluations were coded, as compared to 42 instances of positive evaluation. On a personal level, individuals have responded to the challenges of living in close association with others and all of those interviewed (18 of 18) expressed that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks There are 5 instances coded of personal challenges, 63 instances of interpersonal challenges, and 12 instances of situational challenges. The largest category, interpersonal challenges, is split fairly evenly into three subcategories, boundary issues (23 instances), communication issues (21 instances), and consensus issues (19 instances). Quotes: “Through the adoption of practices at EVI that make explicit the connectedness of the individual to the social and ecological worlds both self and environment are being mutually and reciprocally transformed. The development of a new form of social and ecological relations takes place through the everyday lived experience of residents as they construct and construe their environment.” (p. 10) “Living at EVI, despite the ongoing challenges that are presented by developing this lifestyle, brings about a sense of consonance between identity and behavior. This research suggests that this is an identity that is based on a sense of connectedness to core elements that promote the experience of a sustainable life.” (p.10) Implications: A move to EVI goes far beyond environmental implications. The EcoVillage in Ithaca provides a rich and stimulating environment that has provided exciting and enjoyable experiences for its inhabitants. A strong sense of personal satisfaction is achieved by living in the EVI as well as a community with high social capital. Five forms of Connectedness emerge (p.9): Connection with the wild land underscores a sense of belonging and communion with all life, in its widest and most spiritual sense Connection with the EcoVillage settlement that creates a sense of community and supportive association with fellow humans Connectedness arises through the organic farm and associated environmentally oriented activities- this creates a sense of partnership with the living landscape of natural and benign human activity, and connects the landscape and the community together Connectedness is intra-psychic in nature- the recognition that modern life fragments and compartmentalizes the various components of our lived experience, work, socializing, family, organizational activity, hobbies, etc., leads to a desire to reconnect at least some of these in meaningful ways Connectedness through the generations, from children to old people, forges a temporal connection that implies a commitment to sustainability and dedication to continuity through time My Notes: *assisted living or elderly living communities could be designed after the EVI- fulfills many social aspects that nursing home residents have reported missing in multiple studies *need more information on sustainable aspects of EVI; why has social/ community rationale triumphed over environmental issues? *what is the inhabitants connection to the outer region, Ithaca as a whole?
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